Harmattan Haze

Karly Foland

It is a busy afternoon at the craft market in Abuja, where he works. People and scooters trample the withered plants flanking the dirt paths winding through the stalls; only the crown of thorns thrives. Vendors sell the plants at sprawling roadside nurseries to indifferent expats, promising, they’re easy to care for, just give them what they need. Sure enough, giant bushes burst from the most inhospitable corners of the city, flourishing while surrounded by the castaways of an uncaring land that cannot give them what they need.

The carpenter’s stall, in a string of identical others, displays dark wooden figurines decorated with intricate carvings of animals that once roamed Nigeria. Keen-eyed customers, cooling themselves with Ankara-print fans, differentiate his handiwork from far-east fabrications. While browsing, they reminisce about holidays to Jos Plateau but lament not braving a roadtrip outside of Abuja in years. He sucks his teeth and they nod at the assumed solidarity at the state of things. But he resents their thinking he’s ever had the funds to venture beyond the surrounding hills.

He hikes those hills during the rainy season, meandering between listless herds of white Fulani cows and verdant fields of sorghum. He prefers trekking up the steep slopes alone, reconnecting to nature receding under abandoned infrastructure projects and PVC pipes leaking polluted water. But during harmattan season, distant Saharan winds strengthened by encroaching desertification, slam fine, orange dust against his cracked lips and worsen his catarrh. Harmattan also brings burning trash, wildfires and bandits itching to snatch him for a ransom his family cannot afford. So, friends tag along on his hikes until, in turn, each leave him for opportunities Abuja cannot provide.

Moored to his workbench, he carves hopes, dreams, and himself, into souvenirs others can release into the world for him.

Karly Foland

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Karly Foland has spent over a decade living in Africa, Asia, and Europe. She recently moved from Abuja to Brussels with her husband and the two cats they rescued from the streets of Morocco.

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